United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
February 20, 2004.
TRISH WIGGEN, Plaintiff,
LEGGETT & PLATT, INC., Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRY LEINENWEBER, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Trish Wiggen (hereinafter, "Wiggen"), pro se, has brought
suit against defendant Leggett & Platt, Inc. (hereinafter, "Leggett")
alleging discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 28 U.S.C. § 1343 (a)(3),
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, or
29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 12203.
Leggett moves to dismiss, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
8(a)(2), 12(b)(6) and 12(f).
As Wiggen is a pro se plaintiff, the Court construes her complaint
liberally. McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 325 (7th Cir.
2000). After reviewing her amended complaint, the Court determines that
Wiggen really only alleges discrimination in violation of the Americans
with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., (the "ADA") and
retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12203.
Although Wiggen claims to seek relief under other statutes, the Court
finds it clear from the face of the amended complaint that Wiggen does
not allege conduct that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 28 U.S.C. § 1343 (a)(3), 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et
seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, or 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (the
Age Discrimination in Employment Act). To the extent that Wiggen asserts
any of these claims in her amended complaint, they are dismissed.
Wiggen was employed by Leggett & Platt from September 13, 1993
until August 31, 2001. As early as 1994, Wiggen claims that she began
suffering migraine (severe tension) headaches, and that Leggett knew of
her condition. On numerous occasions, Wiggen alleges that these headaches
severely impaired her physical abilities, such as by inducing noticeable
vomiting. As a result of these headaches, Wiggen claims she asked her
supervisor, Tina Robinson ("Robinson"), for permission to leave, but
Robinson told her to "get over it." Around the same time, Wiggen insists
that Leggett permitted another employee, who had undergone back surgery,
to lie down in the first aid room while still receiving pay.
Wiggen alleges that she complained unsuccessfully about her treatment
numerous times. In particular, Wiggen claims that on or around July 2001,
she complained to Leggett & Platt about disability discrimination,
but Leggett took no action. On
August 30, 2001, Wiggen informed Leggett & Platt officer "Mr. Zaerr"
that she had a medical condition that would require surgery, and again
complained about disability discrimination. Wiggen alleges that Zaerr
responded to this by telling her to keep personal matters out of the
office. Wiggen then wrote a letter requesting help from the Corporate
Office before leaving work on August 30, 2001. On August 31, 2001, Wiggen
Leggett states that it terminated Wiggen because she failed to get
along with others and caused frequent disruptions in the workplace.
Wiggen claims that her discharge violated a Leggett policy.
In an apparently unrelated incident, Wiggen claims that Robinson
threatened her with bodily harm on July 18, 2001. Wiggen responded to
this alleged threat by informing Leggett's Corporate Office and filing a
police report with the Batavia Police Department. Although Jeff Hugey
from the Corporate Office returned Wiggen's call at her home that
evening, he transferred her complaint to Leggett's Batavia branch office
and no action was taken.
On June 18, 2002, Wiggen filed a charge of disability discrimination
with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC") and the
Illinois Department of Human Rights (the "EEOC Charge"). The EEOC granted
Wiggen a right to sue letter on
December 20, 2002, and on March 20, 2003, Wiggen filed a complaint
in this Court against Leggett.
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that "[a] pleading
which sets forth a claim for relief, . . . shall contain . . . (2) a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief[.]" A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests
whether the plaintiff has properly stated a claim upon which relief could
be granted, not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail on the
merits. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). In ruling on a
motion to dismiss, a court must construe all well-pleaded allegations of
the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff. Id. A motion to dismiss will not be granted unless "it appears
beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of
his claims which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson,
355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957).
Leggett & Platt argues that Wiggen's Amended Complaint fails to
state a cause of action, includes time barred allegations not included in
her complaint filed with the EEOC, and pleads allegations and exhibits
that demonstrate Wiggen's inability to make out a legally cognizable
claim even if granted leave to replead.
A. Statement of Claim Showing Pleader
is Entitled to Relief
In its motion to dismiss, Leggett alleges that Wiggen fails to set
forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader
is entitled to relief." FED.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Specifically, Leggett
argues that Wiggen does not "give [Leggett & Platt] fair notice of what
[Wiggen's] complaint is and the grounds upon which it rests." Kyle v.
Morton High School, 144 F.3d 448
, 454-55 (7th Cir. 1998)(emphasis in
The Court disagrees. Wiggen's amended complaint clearly states that:
"[t]his is an action for employment discrimination"; "[t]he defendant
discriminated against the plaintiff because of the plaintiff's . . . (c)
Disability (Americans with Disabilities Act)"; "Plaintiff is alleging her
disability under Title VII and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Migraines (severe tension) headaches"; "[t]he defendant . . . (b)
terminated the plaintiff's employment"; and "[t]he defendant discriminated
against the plaintiff on or about, or beginning on or about, (month) 08,
(day) 31, (year) 2001." Plaintiff further sets forth specific facts
recounting the incidents for which she alleges discrimination and
retaliation. It is not the case here that "no relief could be granted
under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the
allegations." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002).
Therefore, the Court denies Leggett & Platt's motion to
dismiss on the grounds that Wiggen did not properly set forth a claim for
relief under FED.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
1. Failure to State a Claim
Although Wiggen does meet the requirement of Rule 8(a)(2) to provide a
short and plain statement of her claim, with respect to some of her
claims, she does not meet her Rule 12(b)(6) burden of pleading a claim
upon which relief can be granted. In particular, Wiggen alleges that
Leggett committed discrimination by neither permitting her to lie down in
a first aid room, nor allowing her to go home when she suffered from
migraines. Wiggen also argues that Leggett discriminated against her by
telling her to "keep personal matters out of the office" when she
informed her boss of an impending surgery.
None of the above claims rise to the level of an "adverse employment
action" required to sustain a discrimination claim. The Seventh Circuit
holds that "adverse employment actions do not include inconveniences or
minor events that makes an employee unhappy." Hildrebrandt v. Ill. Dep't
of Natural Res., 347 F.3d 1014, 1034 (7th Cir. 2003)(internal citations
omitted). Rather, "the action must cause an adverse change in the terms
and conditions of employment." Tyler v. Ispat Inland Inc., 245 F.3d 969,
972 (7th Cir. 2001). Accordingly, minor personal affronts,
such as those alleged by Wiggen, do not qualify. These claims are
Similarly, Wiggen also appears to allege discrimination concerning her
treatment by her supervisor, Robinson, which led to Robinson allegedly
threatening Wiggen with bodily harm, and Wiggen filing a police report
against her. Wiggen's feuding with Robinson apparently concerned an
alleged $30.00 personal debt not Wiggen's alleged disability or
perceived disability. While Wiggen may have suffered mistreatment from
Robinson and Leggett regarding this alleged debt, personal disagreements
do not qualify for relief under the ADA. Consequently, the Court
dismisses all claims arising out of personal disputes between Wiggen and
This leaves Wiggen with two remaining claims, each centered around her
termination from Leggett a claim for disability discrimination,
and a claim for retaliation.
Leggett argues that Wiggen waived any discrimination claims against it
other than retaliatory discharge because she technically failed to allege
discrimination in her EEOC Charge, as required by Cable v. Ivy Tech
State College, 200 F.3d 467 (7th Cir. 1999). The Court disagrees.
The Seventh Circuit law states that "a plaintiff may pursue claims in
federal court, although not expressly alleged in the EEOC charge, if the
allegations fall within the scope of those described in the charge."
Cheek v. Peabody Coal Co.,
97 F.3d 200, 202 (7th Cir. 1996). To determine whether allegations fit
this category, "courts consider whether the complaint and the charge
describe the same conduct and implicate the same individuals and whether
the complaint's claims and the EEOC charge cover the same time period."
Cheek v. W. & S. Life Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 497, 500 (7th Cir. 1994).
Here, although Wiggen checked only the "retaliation" box, and not the
"discrimination" box, the body of her EEOC Charge clearly suggests
discrimination during July and August of 2001. Specifically, Wiggen
alleged that "On August 30, 2001 I made Respondent aware of another
medical condition that I had and also complained again to Respondent
about disability discrimination." In doing so, Wiggen's EEOC charge
alleges the same conduct, against the same individuals, and during the
same time period, that she does in her amended complaint. Therefore, the
Court rejects Leggett's waiver argument.
3. Statute of Limitations
Leggett also seeks to dismiss some of Wiggen's discrimination claims
for untimeliness. As the Court has already dismissed these disputed
claims under Rule 12(b)(6), this argument is moot and not considered.
Leggett also alleges that Wiggen's retaliation claim fails to state a
claim under Rule 12(b)(6). The Court dismisses such claims
only when "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of
facts in support of his claims which would entitle him to relief." Conley
v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). As the Court explains below,
dismissal is inappropriate here.
To prevail on her retaliation claim, Wiggen must show "that she engaged
in statutorily-protected activity, that an adverse employment action
occurred, and that there exists a causal link between the protected
activity and the adverse employment decision." Steffes v. Stepan
Co., 144 F.3d 1070, 1074 (7th Cir. 1998). Based on this, Leggett
asks that the Court dismiss Wiggen's retaliation claim on the grounds
that she never engaged in a statutorily protected activity.
Wiggen objects to dismissal, claiming that her informal complaint of
discrimination constitutes the necessary statutorily protected activity.
In Krause v. City of La Crosse, 246 F.3d 995, 998 (7th Cir. 2001), the
Seventh Circuit specifically declined to address whether an informal
complaint can sustain a retaliation claim. However, since Krause,
numerous District Courts within the Seventh Circuit have accepted
informal complaints of discrimination as constituting the necessary
statutorily protected activity. See Congress v. Amoco Oil Co., 2001 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 18853 (N.D. Ill. 2001); Czerska v. United Airlines, Inc.,
292 F. Supp.2d 1102, 1116 (N.D. Ill. 2003); U.S.E.E.O.C. v. Armstrong
World Industries, Inc., 185 F. Supp.2d 932, 939-940 (C.D. Ill. 2002). As
finds no authority to the contrary, it too finds that Wiggen' s informal
complaint constitutes statutorily protected activity.
Leggett & Platt further alleges that Wiggen's Amended Complaint fails
because it does not complain of any "bona fide ADA issues." However, "an
actual violation . . . by the employer is not a prerequisite for a
retaliation claim; the employee need only have a sincere and reasonable
belief that she is challenging conduct that violates [the ADA]."
Hunt-Golliday v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation Dist., 104 F.3d 1004,
1014 (7th Cir. 1997). Therefore, Wiggen's retaliation claim is not
dependent on the underlying complaints of discrimination being
Finally, Leggett & Platt asserts not only that Wiggen will not be
able to prove the third element, a causal link between the protected
activity and the adverse employment decision, but that she "never alleges
this critical "because of element." To the contrary, in the EEOC Charge,
Wiggen explicitly states "I believe that I have been retaliated against
due to my prior complaints of disability discrimination in violation of
the American with Disabilities Act of 1967, as amended." It is not
necessary to determine at this stage whether Wiggen will be able to
prove this causal link.
Leggett & Platt has not made the argument nor offered any support
for an argument that Wiggen's charges of discrimination,
not being waived or time barred, nevertheless fail to state a claim
under Rule 12(b)(6).
D. Alternative Relief
Leggett & Platt seeks alternative relief under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(f) requesting that certain portions of the Amended Complaint
be stricken. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) states that "[u]pon
motion made by a party before responding to a pleading or, if no
responsive pleading is permitted by these rules, upon motion made by a
party within 20 days after the service of the pleading upon the party or
upon the court's own initiative at any time, the court may order stricken
from any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial,
impertinent, or scandalous matter." Leggett & Platt's motion is granted
as to Paragraphs 10, 11, and 14 as these paragraphs are immaterial to the
present action. The motion is denied as to paragraph 13 because the facts
stated in this paragraph are material to the Wiggen's allegations of
discrimination and retaliation.
For the reasons stated herein, Leggett & Platt's Motion to Dismiss
is granted in part and denied in part, as follows:
1. The motion is granted as to all allegations in paragraphs 10, 11 and
14 of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, and as to any claims under Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
28 U.S.C. § 1331, 28 U.S.C. § 1343 (a)(3), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.,
42 U.S.C. § 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, or 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act).
2. The motion is granted in part and denied in part as to the claims of
discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.
3. The motion is denied as to the claim of retaliation under
42 U.S.C. § 12203.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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